It seems that yesterday’s question time in the Lower House was a somewhat despairing affair, but I see something interesting has come out of it which might be of tactical interest.
Komeito’s Yamaguchi Natsuo went to town on the Hatoyama cabinet and came out in clear opposition to Hatoyama’s acquiescence to Kamei Shizuka’s plan to double the ceiling on postal deposits.
So potential pre and/or post election partner Komeito pretty much thinks the Hatoyama Cabinet is hopeless, in both the literal and commonly used sense of the word. Nevertheless, if there was a group of people, say, in the DPJ, who would like to get rid of Hatoyama, at the very least stabilise postal reforms if not push them forward, and get rid of the PNP’s influence in government – this would sound not exactly like the worst overture (J) in the world……
Even the DPJ’s previous chief adviser has raised concerns (J) about Hatoyama & Tanigaki and their respective parties’ less than stellar performance – suggesting that a true political reorganisation and a two party system will not come until after the House of Councillors election and one assumes with both of these two out of the way – basically the two parties as they are currently constituted do not represent (he hopes) the two parties that will make up a predictable two party system. Revisiting Masuzoe et al’s seeming decision to remain with the LDP in this context it probably makes some degree of sense if we assume that Masuzoe is thinking longer term – while he is more or less effectively ruling out any role in government in a post HoC election world, one assumes that he will be around to pick up the pieces of the LDP in the wake of the HoC elections. He would inherit the party with a crystal clear mandate to reform it, with the possibility of always inviting back those who have departed in the last couple of years back into the party, thus consolidating its strength. This reformed party may well be in a good coherent place, ideologically speaking, come around the time of the next Lower House election. Given the likes of Koike and Yosano are unable to leave the party (at least with no electoral risk) until the next Lower House election in a few years time, this is probably all the better for Masuzoe given their political value.
The risk he takes of course, is that the DPJ may enhance their performance in anyway, and perhaps even more problematically, develop its own coherent ideological outlook, which might infringe upon some of the areas Masuzoe himself may be interested in. Obviously the governing party would probably have the advantage – especially with time on their side and the potential for it to wash away some of the, uh, public confidence problems the DPJ has been having of late.
That said, two-party systems do not always require large contrasting ideological differences – just enough to campaign on, with added personal elements mixed in for good effect. And there is enough detectable space between DPJ and LDP reform minded candidates – and certainly a fair amount of personal animosity for this to be possible. And even if the two parties’ platforms did coalesce around certain principles, and this was to represent a new ideological consensus on some of the issues, domestic and foreign, that beguile Japan today, Japan will still be all the better for it with two parties fighting over a consensus, rather than one.